House of Commons Hansard #305 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


The House resumed from April 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, Abraham Lincoln once said, “If there is anything that a man can do well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance.” In 2018, of course, we refer to people instead of men, but the message is still the same.

While I would suggest that all of us in this place would agree with this sentiment, there are areas where we can do much better in this regard, and we are talking about one of them this evening. For people with disabilities in Canada today, we do not do enough to recognize and cultivate skills and abilities. Rather, we tend to focus almost exclusively on the challenges. When we do recognize an area where an individual can contribute, we often do something that is almost inconceivable: We actually penalize people who are able to overcome the odds and find a job. In 2018, in Canada, individuals with a disability can get a job that properly compensates them for their work, but end up being worse off than if they had not been working. This is because governments take away more in benefits than the individuals make in their new job.

With this simple piece of legislation we are dealing with today, we have the opportunity to change that. As the parent of a 22-year-old son with autism, I would like to thank the member for Carleton for this very important and non-partisan initiative. After quoting a Republican, Lincoln, I will quote John F. Kennedy to highlight the non-partisan nature of this discussion. He said, “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”

With this bill, we have the opportunity to show federal leadership to make something happen while respecting provincial jurisdiction. The bill is quite brilliant in its simplicity. It is just a page and a half long and sets in place a mechanism to determine areas where the clawback of income in terms of taxes and lost benefits for persons with disabilities who work is greater than the income they receive from that work. When such a situation exists, the bill would allow the finance minister to take action to fix the problem. This may seem like common sense because it is common sense, and it is incumbent on us to make it happen.

Others will talk a bit more about the details of the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, but I am going to use the rest of my time today to share a bit about my son Jaden, and use his example to highlight the importance of this bill.

Jaden and I travel around the country and do a presentation called “Expect More, An Autism Adventure”. We talk about the idea that we can move from inclusion, which is really important, to contribution. When I talk about inclusion in Jaden's life, I talk about things like his schooling, the school system he went to from K to 12 with a full-time aid helping him. I think about hockey and bowling, where he took part on regular teams in regular leagues, often with a bit of support from his dad or some of the other coaches. I think about musical theatre. His story in musical theatre is really a cool one that I will get to in a second. Jaden has some challenges, of course. He is non-verbal, and everybody in this House has probably met Jaden at one time or another and given him a high five. He has trouble with things that are abstract.

I like to tell stories about Jaden to highlight some of his difficulties understanding what is okay and not okay. I think back to when he was nine years old and we went to McDonald's at West Edmonton Mall between Christmas and New Years. We were picking up food for a bunch of people and were walking out and I was not holding his hand because I was carrying all of this food for these people. Because I was not able to hold his hand, Jaden had a bit of free reign. All of a sudden, he got the giggles and turned around and ran back to the counter at McDonald's and ran behind the full length of the counter. He reached into the bin where they hold the crushed Smarties in front of everybody in line, and grabbed a handful of crushed Smarties and stuffed them in his face. He was eating these crushed Smarties with the biggest smile on his face while about 70 people in line—it was very busy—looked on and were somewhat aghast at the situation. I just ran to him, found someone who looked like a manager, and quickly explained that Jaden has autism, and we walked out.

We often talk about these challenges, but what I love about Jaden's situation and the inclusion story of Jaden, his situation in school, was the fact that Jaden had a very supportive environment. When I think about musical theatre, I think about the teachers and students who were involved in musical theatre who, because they had gone to school with Jaden for 10 years leading up to his grade-10 year, recognized that Jaden loved theatre, movies, and music and thought that he might be able to have a part in a musical theatre production. The first year, they did Oliver!, and they put Jaden in a group scene where he practised the moves and took part in a couple of group scenes, and kids were on the side of the stage watching to make sure he did not take off and just wander offstage. The second year, they pushed him a bit further. They did Bye Bye Birdie. There were some scenes with choreography. They were able to teach Jaden the choreography.

The third year, his last year of musical theatre, in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, one of the girls, in her senior year, asked if she could be Jaden's wife in the play. There were many scenes where there were couples dancing, and she taught Jaden to kind of improvise in those scenes. When the other boys picked up the girls and threw them in the air, Jaden put his hands on her hips and she jumped, to make it look like he was throwing her in the air. It was amazing. He did much better than anybody thought he could do. It was a perfect example of inclusion.

However, it is one thing to look at inclusion; it is another thing to look at where we go beyond that. Inclusion offered the opportunity for people to see what Jaden was good at, but the school was challenged with finding a next step for him, something I call moving from inclusion to contribution. We talk about this often.

In Jaden's case, because he had been included in so many different aspects of school life all these years, there were kids who remembered what he was good at. They remembered that, up until grade 4, he was the first kid to do times tables, or that he got 100% on most of his spelling tests, because he sees the world a little differently than everybody else. Jaden did a great job in musical theatre, better than we ever thought he would, but, to be honest, even as his father, I would admit that Jaden is probably not going to have a career in musical theatre. He did better than we thought he would, but musical theatre is not necessarily his calling or gift.

However, it did challenge people to think that maybe he was capable of doing more than they thought. His aide and the school, the teachers and the students, had him working in the school library. Jaden was astonishing, working in the library. He would scan the books, put them all in a pile, put them on the cart in order, and then run around the library putting them away. He would put them away faster than anybody else.

It was pretty cool watching Jaden in the library. Not only would he put the books away faster than anybody else, never making a mistake, but he would walk by books that were already on a library shelf and would notice that they were in the wrong place, out of all of the books on the shelf. He would grab them as he was walking by, put them on his cart, and when he got to where they belonged, he would just put them where they belonged without even skipping a beat.

Jaden has this incredible skill and ability that were noticed by students and teachers as he was going through his schooling. As we move forward, we ask what the vocational opportunities for Jaden are. We can think about how much work went into developing, understanding, and cultivating Jaden's skill level and finding those abilities. Now Jaden is going to potentially have the opportunity to work in a school environment or a library environment, or something similar to that.

The circumstance in this country right now is that Jaden may have that opportunity to work. Jaden is incredibly excited to work; he cries at the end of his shift because he wants to keep working. I do not know how many members in the House cry at the end of their House duty, but it is probably not because they want to keep it going. In Jaden's case, that is how much he loves working. We are in a circumstance where Jaden could be worse off when he is working, because of these clawbacks, these systems we have in place. However, we can remedy that with the particular piece of legislation we are dealing with today.

I would challenge members of the House to think about Jaden's circumstance. We can think about the decision that we have to make for him, or that people with disabilities might have to make. They can go out and do something they are good at. They can make a decision to be compensated fairly for the work they do, or they can volunteer for that work, doing it for free, and they would be better off financially. That is an insane choice to have to make. How many of us think that this would be okay, if we had to make that choice? If Jaden was to work for free, he might be better off financially than if he was to actually get paid what his work is worth. That is the circumstance we are dealing with. That is what this bill is meant to solve.

I want to thank the member for Carleton for bringing forward this very important issue. I know that he worked very hard to find something he could use his private member's bill on that would be non-partisan in nature and that members from all parties could support.

I talked to a couple of NDP members today, and I know the NDP will be supportive, as it supported the Canadian autism partnership last year. It is quite a thing to find Conservative and NDP members in agreement on issues, but there are a couple of areas where we did find some agreement. I do not know what the Liberal position is on this, but I hope the Liberals will also support this. I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I am happy to outline the government's position on Bill C-395, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.

I want to commend the member for Carleton, because the end he is seeking to achieve in this legislation is noble and good. However, the means to reach that end are not consistent with our vision of federalism and productive collaboration with provinces and territories.

The bill seeks to help encourage more people to enter the workforce. The government is taking, and has taken, substantive steps toward the same end. The government believes that in order to face the challenges of today and tomorrow, we will need the hard work and creativity of all Canadians.

We are here because our constituents put us here and, as legislators, we must not only do the right thing, we must also do it right. The debate we are about to have hinges on that nuance. That will be central to the debate today because there is a wide gulf between the approach we are proposing and this proposed approach.

The approach proposed in this bill involves imposing more conditions on the provinces and then talking to them about it after the fact. That is not our vision of federalism and the work we need to do with the provinces. The provinces want us to work with them, to collaborate, especially on matters that are under their jurisdiction.

The previous government was in power for 10 years and could have introduced a condition like this, but it did not. The previous government was in power for 10 years and my colleague from Carleton was the minister in charge of the portfolio, but not once in 10 years did he meet with his provincial counterparts to discuss this important issue.

The bill seeks to introduce a condition to the Canada social transfer whereby the transfer payments to provinces and territories would be reduced in cases where persons with disabilities face marginal effective tax rates above 100%. These high marginal effective tax rates are largely the result of the design of provincial and territorial social assistance programs.

The provisions of this bill are not consistent with the intent of the Canada social transfer, which exists to provide funding to provincial and territorial governments while allowing flexibility in the design and administration of programs in their areas of responsibility, including the delivery of social assistance.

What the bill is proposing would amount to an encroachment on an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial governments are accountable directly to their residents for their spending in their areas of responsibility, and that includes program spending that results from the Canada social transfer payments.

Our government is committed to helping the next generation of Canadians succeed. We believe that every Canadian deserves an equal and fair chance at success, so we agree that removing barriers to entering and staying in the workforce is a principled goal.

However, this is a challenge that no order of government can take on alone. We need the support of our partners. Introducing a condition that could result in reduced CST payments to provinces and territories, which is what this bill proposes, could effectively jeopardize social programming for all Canadians, including post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, and support for children, while doing nothing to address the barriers to employment for persons with disabilities. In other words, this is not a preferable scenario.

There are more effective ways of improving access to good jobs for persons with disabilities. A more collaborative approach with provincial and territorial governments, one that seeks to address labour market barriers faced by persons with disabilities, would achieve more than what is being proposed today.

Our government recognizes the importance of the issue raised by the bill. We are committed to working with provinces and territories to figure out how to give persons with disabilities more opportunities to work and more incentives to join and stay in the workforce. In fact, our government has taken many actions to do just that.

In budget 2018, we introduced the new Canada workers benefit. This new benefit is a strengthened version of the working income tax benefit and will come into effect next year. The new Canada workers benefit will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and, in doing so, give people help as they transition to work.

For example, a low-income worker earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the Canada workers benefit in 2019 than in 2018 under the current system. The government also proposes to increase the maximum benefit provided through the Canada workers benefit disability supplement by an additional $160 to offer greater support to eligible Canadians with disabilities.

The Canada workers benefit will offer real help to more than two million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class. Enhancements to the benefit, starting in 2019, will also raise roughly 70,000 Canadians out of poverty. This improved benefit will help low-income working Canadians, including those with disabilities, make ends meet.

In budget 2018, the government also provided funding for a new program to develop and enhance pre-apprenticeship training. Working in partnership with provinces, territories, post-secondary institutions, training providers, unions, and employers, it will help Canadians, particularly under-represented groups, including women, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and newcomers, to explore the trades, gain work experience, make informed career choices, and develop the skills needed to succeed.

We know that labour market barriers faced by persons with disabilities are broader than financial disincentives. That is why the government has committed to introducing accessibility legislation to proactively identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers for persons with disabilities in the federal jurisdiction.

Since taking office, the government has also made a number of investments in federal programming to support persons with disabilities. I will now detail a few examples from our first two budgets.

To increase investments in training and employment supports under the labour market development agreements and workforce development agreements, budget 2017 provided $2.7 billion over six years, starting in 2017-18. These agreements are the means by which the federal government transfers funds to provinces and territories to improve employment opportunities, including for persons with disabilities.

Budget 2017 also provided close to $400 million over three years to support the youth employment strategy, which includes funding for vulnerable youth, including youth with disabilities, to overcome barriers to employment.

Budget 2016 and budget 2017 provided $81 million over 10 years to expand the enabling accessibility fund, which funds capital projects that improve the accessibility of community and workplace infrastructure.

Also, budget 2016 provided $73 million over four years to support new work-integrated learning opportunities for young Canadians in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business fields. The program provides wage incentives for employers who hire from under-represented groups, including persons with disabilities.

Our government's position is clear: We need to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people, with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class. We need to maximize workforce participation, including for persons with disabilities, and create more incentives for people to join and stay in the workforce. The new Canada workers benefit, and the increased disability supplement that is provided through this benefit, is a step in the right direction.

Again, I would like to thank my colleague for raising that important issue in the House through Bill C-395. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I believe the end he is seeking to achieve is a good and noble one, and we share that objective. However, the means he has chosen to achieve it, essentially coercing the provinces through a condition to the Canada social transfer, is not the right way to go. This is something that can be better achieved through collaborating and working with the provinces and territories.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is rare for me to agree with the member for Carleton, the bill's sponsor, but today, I can inform him that the NDP will be supporting his initiative. We believe it is a step in the right direction. It is a shame to hear the Liberals tell the House that they will not be following our lead and supporting people with disabilities and their integration into the workforce. This is a concrete measure to correct a situation that is unfair to people with disabilities.

I have somewhat personal reasons, family reasons, for being pleased to be talking about this bill. My mother was a practical nurse, and she spent most of her career working with children with severe disabilities. I think that is why I was brought up to respect differences and see the potential in all human beings, even those with certain conditions or limitations that make life more difficult or create special challenges in the environment we live in.

What can we do to give people with disabilities the respect and support they need to live the richest, fullest, and best lives possible? How can we all work together to promote equal opportunities? The phrase “equal opportunities” is all too often used as a kind of slogan, but the concept has very real consequences for people with physical or intellectual disabilities. If we truly want our society to be united and inclusive, we need to do everything we can to make life easier for people with disabilities and give them the same opportunities that are available to each of us, so they can fulfill their dreams and live life to the fullest just as anyone else.

I would now like to talk about an important document that has inspired progressive and humanist philosophy for more than 200 years. I am talking about the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen, which dates back to the French Revolution in 1789. One important sentence underlined the first step of the revolution. For the first time, a document was adopted and said, “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.” However, that is not the exact sentence. The document actually said, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

Rights are important, but we must also consider the notion of dignity in how we organize society, manage the country, and take care of the poorest and least fortunate, or of those who face particular challenges as a result of personal conditions or limitations.

The current process for a person with a disability who is receiving benefits and then finds a job, joins the workforce, and receives employment income is unacceptable. Right now, these people are penalized. This bill is important because it fixes this problem and helps persons with disabilities who do not have the same opportunities as the majority of the population. These people are clearly in a difficult position. I was going to say that they face discrimination, and that is practically the case.

When you look at the statistics from the federal human development department, you can see that there is a $10,000 difference in the average annual income between a person with a disability and an able-bodied person. If you are talking about an income of about $22,000 a year for a person with a disability and an income of $32,000 a year for an able-bodied person, that is a big difference.

It is a huge difference, practically a third less income on average. What can we do to fix the problem? What can the government do to level the playing field and give everyone the same opportunities?

Lower salaries are not the only problem. There is also a stark difference in workforce participation. The employment rate among so-called “able-bodied” people, a term I always put in air quotes because this terminology needs to be used carefully, is about 75%. By contrast, the employment rate among people with limitations or disabilities, to use the terms employed by Statistics Canada, is just 50%. There is a difference of 25% in the employment rate of people without disabilities and people with disabilities. This is a massive difference that affects many people.

When we talk about people with limitations or disabilities, we are talking about roughly 10% of Canadians. One out of 10 Canadians is in this situation. This is a major concern for us. What concrete steps and measures can we take to help these Canadians enter and participate in the workforce, boost their employment, and earn higher incomes to improve their quality of life?

We are talking about one in 10 people or 2.3 million Canadians. All of those people have an income of less than $10,000 a year on average and their rate of employment is 25% lower than that of people who report living without a disability or limitation. That is unfair and discriminatory.

I would like to come back to the idea of equal opportunities for all and the fact that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. There is a problem here, and I thank my Conservative colleague for noticing it and for introducing a bill to address it. His bill is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.

That is why the NDP will support the bill at second reading so that we can examine it in committee, hear from various experts and stakeholders, and see what amendments or improvements could be made to it.

What does the essence of the bill tell us? This bill seeks to ensure that people with disabilities who have an employment income will not potentially lose benefits because of the finance department's tax measures.

This is a ridiculous situation. People with disabilities who are receiving benefits are penalized if they get a job because then they lose some of their benefits. It is therefore not worth it to them to get a job and join the labour force.

As progressive New Democrats, we do not want this situation to continue. We think that the measures set out in this bill could help people. They need serious, realistic, and measurable incentives to join the workforce.

The bill will adapt the benefits to the needs of people with disabilities and reduce barriers to employment. It is extremely important to keep that in mind. We think that such a change is extremely important, since it will also allow for better tax redistribution.

Ultimately, the legislation will help provide more opportunities for people with disabilities to enter the labour market. To my knowledge, this bill would put in place a tax incentive that would help the provinces ensure that a person with a disability who enters the labour market would not be impoverished in doing so.

When we go to work, our income should go up, not down. That is the least we can ask of a government that wants to treat everyone equally. We must help people with disabilities enter the labour market and join the average Canadian and Quebecker.

That is why we will be supporting this bill at second reading.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak today on this terrific bill put forward by my colleague from Carleton. I would like to begin my speech today with a quote:

On behalf of the Rick Hansen Foundation, I support the Opportunity for Workers and Disabilities Act. Nobody, including people with disabilities should be worse off once working. Addressing this issue is important and I am pleased that with the tabling of this Bill, rightful attention will be focused on finding an appropriate solution. We see this as a win-win for people with disabilities and Canadian society as a whole. An inclusive Canada is a stronger Canada.

That was said by our very own Paralympian, Rick Hansen, founder and CEO of the Rick Hansen Foundation, one of Canada's best men for showing what people can do with a disability, that they can still be tremendous.

The bill can be viewed in a variety of ways, whether it is what is fiscally best for Canada's economy or how we can empower Canadians to provide another way and tool for inclusion. I will focus on the latter, as I know my hon. colleague has provided the positive fiscal side to this. I come to the House wanting to do what is in the best interests of Canadians, knowing how smart, thorough legislation and policies can have a positive impact on their lives. That is the one thing this bill does.

I had the opportunity to work on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and Persons with Disabilities. We did a poverty reduction study that was tabled last year. Throughout that study we had an opportunity to speak to many people. One group was people with disabilities. Through the work of the committee, we met organizations and community leaders and recognized that work, whether paid or unpaid, is good for one's health and well-being. It contributes to overall happiness, helps build confidence and self-esteem, and rewards us financially.

The great thing about the bill is that not only is it doing something that is fiscally right for Canadians, it is also adding the human aspect, which the government and this Parliament speak about all the time. How can we make ourselves a more inclusive society? That is exactly what the bill does.

Whether we are looking at person with an intellectual or physical disability, the premise is the same: work keeps one busy. It enables socialization and provides monetary incentives that support one's interests. We know that working helps improve mental health, and helps one recover more quickly in many cases.

While reviewing information for this speech today, I found a quote from Randy Lewis, a man who has hired over 1,000 people with disabilities. Here again is another man we talked about a lot during the study by the human resources committee, because many times we referred to the incredible work he was doing. Randy was the former senior vice-president of Walgreens. He stated:

I am the father of an adult child with autism who works full-time. I am also the former Senior Vice President of Walgreens who hired over a thousand people with disabilities in its distribution centers. Eliminating disincentives through the Opportunity Act is a good first step toward increasing one’s desire to participate in the workforce. However, if we are to substantially increase the desire to work, we also need to eliminate the fear of not being able to restore benefits quickly should employment not be successful and also ensure that the financial benefits of working exceed the financial benefits of not working.

That is exactly what we are asking for in the bill. We are asking for the Minister of Finance to review this. This is really important. We have to make sure that when we were doing this, we keep in mind the impact of switching from being on disability to getting out there and working. What impact does that have on the bottom line?

We talk a lot about marginal income tax rates, and we can see their negative impact. In this bill, we are looking at and focusing on means tested social programs, including the housing program and drug benefits, and negative impacts, including clawbacks via taxes, such that at the end of the day, someone who might have gone to work ends up coming home with less income as a result.

I refer to my time working for Joe Preston. We saw many people come into the office with disabilities who just wanted to work. They wanted to have dignity. I can think of one man who came in, who is a tremendous man in our community who volunteers a lot. He wanted to run for city council. The problem was that although the stipend was very small, working as a city councillor would remove all of the benefits he had. At the end of the day, financially he was not ending up with a lot more cash in his pocket, but what he was losing was huge.

He was going to lose the assistance that paid for his medication through the drug plan available through Ontario Works. All those things the ODSP had provided for him were going to be gone. He just wanted to contribute to society and continue to make it a better place to live, but it was better for him not to participate in that election, because he would have ended up with less.

We talk about wanting inclusion. We want people to be part of our society. We know it is good for them.

Another thing we focused on throughout the poverty reduction study was opportunities for Canadians to work. We know that Canadians with disabilities are the largest population when we are talking about the poverty line. When we scrutinize the data that is available to us, we recognize that many times, people with disabilities are the most vulnerable and are living with the least.

A report from the Library of Parliament showed that low-income working Canadians with disabilities are facing tax rates of over 100%. Imagine, all they want to do is get out there and work and be contributing members of society, and they walk home with less, less to feed their families and less when it comes to so many of the things that make their lives viable.

We have to understand that this is a real struggle. I believe that many disabled Canadians want to go to work, but it is a problem when it comes to financial stability, not only for themselves but for their families. What we know is that when some of these people work more, they end up coming home with less. That is something we are asking the Minister of Finance to look at to see how they are impacted.

Reviewing these benefits and making sure that Canadians are better off working must be done so we have an inclusive society. This is what we need to look at. These are people with MS, autism, Down syndrome, ALS, and many other disabilities where someone is still able to work and make personal gains. The bill is proposing exactly that. It recognizes the worthiness of Canadians.

The HUMA committee tabled the poverty reduction study last year, and I want to refer to a couple of the recommendations we made. Recommendation 3 reads:

That Finance Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency review taxes for low-income workers to ensure that no families are forced into poverty as a result of taxes.

Recommendation 4 reads:

That Employment and Social Development Canada, Finance Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency work with provinces and territories to strengthen and coordinate income support program policies so that participants do not face marginal effective tax rates that discourage labour force participation.

Recommendations 20 and 21 are also very supportive of the bill. That is exactly what we talked about in the HUMA committee. The fact that this bill is in line with what we were talking about to make things better is a good thing. Recommendation 21 is really about social development and what we can do there.

We understand that in many cases, people are concerned about jurisdiction. Levels of government need to work together on the Canada social transfers, what we need to do, and how we can do it. Canada social transfers were established back in 2004. There were two types of transfers at that time. They are block transfers and a variety of different things. I know that our wonderful member will explain that further.

We must make sure that these fine social programs provide flexibility for the provinces. Many of us have had debates about health transfers. We provide the money in blocks, many times with no strings attached. That is what we are looking at here. We want to make sure that the money is earmarked and is being used appropriately.

We talk about the transfers and eligibility. To receive funding, provincial or territorial governments must not impose minimum residency requirements as a condition. Those are important things, but there are other things when we look at these conditions. We want to make sure that the transferred money is appropriate. That is something our member for Carleton has looked at: making sure that, at the end of the day, Canadians are better off and that we can review the impacts and how we work with our provincial and territorial partners.

I want to finish off with a quote from Dr. Ian Lee. He is an associate professor at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University. He appeared at the committee. He indicated support for the bill. He said, “The bill proposed by the hon. member represents an important precedent in policies that integration of people into the workforce who are in receipt of some sort of disability payment from government, for it mandates the clawback incurred from working again, cannot make the citizen worse off than before”.

I recognize that this is an excellent bill and will do excellent things for Canadians. I hope everyone will support it.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-395, the opportunities act. I want to take an opportunity very quickly to thank the member for Carleton for bringing this forward. I know the opportunity to present a private member's bill does not come along that often, and many members in the House will not have an opportunity to see one through to completion. When people take the time they are allotted for a cause and purpose like this, it is to be commended. The member, through his private member's bill, is really starting to highlight and draw attention to a very important issue that we need to be looking at closely. We need to be examining it and figuring out what can be done. The bill he has introduced puts us on the right path and in the direction of being able to start having this discussion.

I am going to focus my comments on the problem that exists. My staff and I had an opportunity to research this and look at some of the problems. I would like to talk about those as well as about some statistics we were able to find that highlight even further the problem that exists. I will then talk a bit about some of the recommendations out there and the Canada social transfer component and what this bill would do to change that.

The first thing we have to understand is the marginal effective tax rate that so many people who are receiving some kind of social assistance or disability payment, or whatever it might be from the government, are dealing with. In particular, as it relates to people with disabilities, what we are finding is that they are less interested in getting into the marketplace because of the clawback that would happen when they get into the workforce and start to generate income. Their disability payments would be clawed back. Therefore, their marginal effective rate of tax would actually starts to increase.

According to figures we were able to obtain from the Library of Parliament, a person with a disability working 30 hours a week in Ontario pays a marginal effective tax rate of up to 70%. If members think that is astonishing, in Alberta it can be as much as 115% for a person who has a disability and is working 40 hours a week. Another term for this is what is referred to as the “welfare wall”. That was coined by the Centre for Research on Work and Disability Policy. It refers to a cluster of factors that together act as a trap for people on social assistance, or ”welfare”, the term it uses, and makes it difficult for them to move off that program of income support. I think that is exactly the case we are seeing here for people with disabilities with the disability payments they are getting.

This problem is also well documented by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy in a 1993 study, which found that Ontario social assistance recipients who supplement their social benefits by working get to keep only a very small fraction of these earnings. Basically, there is a wall, called the “welfare wall”, put up in front of people that is preventing them from actually getting into the workforce. In particular, the more they work, the more is clawed back. Therefore, even if they do start to get into the workforce, there is a disincentive to continue to work more.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD, did a study on this and found that unemployment rates of persons with disabilities in 2006 were 50% higher than for Canadians without disabilities. The OECD concluded:

Much of Canada's sickness and disability policy reform efforts so far have been piecemeal rather than co-ordinated, and had seemingly limited overall impact on a system that remains complex and fragmented.

I mentioned earlier that I would talk about some statistics. This is from Statistics Canada. According to a 2012 Canadian survey on disability, there were over 650,000 disabled individuals, aged 15 to 64, who were not in the labour force who either used to work or indicated that they were capable of working. Of these, 94,000 reported feeling that if they were employed, they would lose additional support.

That is key. These are people thinking to themselves that if they start working, they will lose support. They are not even in the participation rates, because many of them are not actually looking for jobs, because they fear these clawbacks.

The unemployment rate for persons with disabilities is 11%, compared to 6% for people without disabilities, which is almost double. It is important to mention that the unemployment rate always includes people who are actively looking for work, and that is why we have to talk about the participation rate, which is equally important. The participation rate is 55% for people with disabilities versus 84% for people without disabilities.

I have outlined why I see a big problem here. I would agree with the member that we are not doing enough to combat this problem. We are not doing enough to put additional measures in place to discourage the welfare wall that has been created.

That is why I think the part of the member's bill that talks about the minister collecting data and reporting back to Parliament on a regular basis is extremely important. By getting that information, we can have a discussion about it. Quite frankly, a lot of Canadians are not having a discussion about this, because they are not aware of the information and do not realize the impact.

My colleague on the other side talked a little bit about the HUMA recommendations. I admit that I am not a member of the committee, but I did look at the report it produced. It had four recommendations that I believe are related to this.

The first is “that the government task the Parliamentary Budget Officer with reporting annually on the marginal effective tax rates...that low-income disabled people pay in each province.”

The second recommendation is “that, at the next meeting of the federal-provincial Finance Ministers, all governments agree”, which I think is the key word here, “on a coordinated plan to cap [marginal effective tax rates] at...50% for all disabled Canadians”. It goes on to give more detail. I think it is key that we recognize that the word “agree” was used there because of the problem that is presented by the Canada social transfer.

The difference between this bill and the HUMA report is that the bill directs the federal government to do something with the Canada social transfer.

I know the member across the way mentioned that the Canada social transfer has one single condition, but there is a valid reason for that. Under section 25.1 of the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, provinces and territories must meet a national standard of having no minimum residency period. That is the sole criterion, and this was done intentionally to create a scenario in which the provinces are responsible to the people, as opposed to being responsible to the federal government.

That is probably what has motivated the government, through the parliamentary secretary, to explain why it might not be supporting it. This bill would have been a lot more palatable if it did not have the component regarding the Canada social transfer. If it did not, we would have been able to get that information on a regular basis.

I am very supportive of the concept and what I have heard, but to be completely honest, I am still deliberating as to how I am going to vote on this. I think this is a noble effort, and I know what people with disabilities face.

As a personal anecdote, I have a nephew with Down syndrome. He has great and amazing supports right now, but we worry about what supports he is going to have after he finishes high school.

I will leave it at that.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before resuming debate, I want to advise the next speaker that unfortunately she will have to pare down her speech, as she will have only six minutes.

The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

May 31st, 2018 / 6:15 p.m.


Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an extreme pleasure to rise to speak to this private member's bill from the member for Carleton. Once again he has shown himself to be very intelligent and caring in bringing forward a bill that would help disabled people work without being punished by having their wages and benefits clawed back.

I will spend some of my time addressing a concern from members opposite that this is perhaps not the jurisdiction in which action can be taken. There are many federal programs that have conditions associated with them. I will, as the health shadow minister, talk about the Canada Health Act, which contains conditions that the provinces need to comply with. Health care has to be universal, it has to be portable, and it has to be accessible. As well, there are a number of conditions about administration that go with that act.

The member opposite just read the social transfer criteria, and there are conditions that go along with that transfer. We have certainly seen that infrastructure programs the government brings forward sometimes have conditions, whether it is emissions, how much federal money goes in, and how much provincial money goes along with that. Conditions can be applied, and even in extreme cases, there are times—such as in the case of the carbon tax, for example—that the government has forced conditions on the provinces, so the federal government does have the jurisdiction to bring these changes forward.

We should keep in mind with this private member's bill that we are not telling the provinces how to implement the principle; we are just describing the principle that disabled people who want to work should not have their wages and benefits clawed back. They should not be punished for that. We need to find ways that will encourage them to work, because we know that when they work, it is good for their mental health, they have a sense of accomplishment, they feel part of the community, and overall it is a positive experience.

One of my colleagues talked about the welfare wall. The principles expressed in this bill may have even broader implications for people in that trap, because they have the same issue that disabled people are having. If they start to work, their wages and benefits are clawed back, and that is a disincentive to them. This principle is an excellent one, but I would argue that it may have even broader consequences.

The Standing Committee on Human Rights, Skills and Social Development studied this matter. This bill aligns directly with one of its recommendations, which said that we need to find ways, with the things that we can control at the federal level, to help those who have lower incomes. This private member's bill would do that. It is within the federal government's power to put these conditions in place on the transfers to the provinces, and I think provinces will embrace and support the idea that disabled people should be able to work and not be punished for doing so.

My palliative care bill, for example, was brought in at the federal level, recognizing that the execution of palliative care is under provincial jurisdiction. It was with the support of the provinces, which have come alongside and have been very happy to participate, with the federal government doing what it can do and the provinces bringing the wherewithal and the how-to of the execution. The circumstances here are very similar.

Once again I want to thank the member for Carleton for his thoughtfulness in bringing forward something that I consider to be a great balance of fiscal responsibility and social compassion. It is to the credit of everyone in this House to support this private member's bill and do what we can to ensure that disabled people can take on work that will enrich their lives without being punished.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Pierre Poilievre Conservative Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, when Tim Hortons franchise owner Mark Wafer hired a young man with Down's syndrome named Clint, he probably did not realize that it would turn out to be one of the best business decisions of his life.

Clint did all the same tasks as his co-workers and made the same money with no government wage subsidy or workplace tokenism. He arrived early, left late, and refused to take breaks all day long. Mark has since hired over 200 employees with disabilities just like Clint, who together made his six Tim Hortons locations among the most profitable in the legendary chain.

There are a million Canadians with disabilities who work, including 328,000 with severe disabilities. However, many people with disabilities do not have jobs. What is stopping them?

In many cases, the government is. Programs like income assistance, housing, drug benefits, and others are clawed back when people on disability get jobs. With these clawbacks plus taxes, often the harder people work, the poorer they become.

For example, a minimum wage-earning worker on disability in Saskatchewan who goes from part-time to full-time work actually sees his take-home pay drop. Stats Canada reports that 84,000 Canadians with disabilities who are able to work do not, because they fear they would lose income if they did.

Mark from Tim Hortons said one of his best workers had to quit because he would lose $10,000 in medication assistance if he kept working, so Mark asked an official with the Ontario disability support plan what the best way to get off of disability was. She said, “Die”.

Policies that cancel out people's wages signal that their work has no value. That is not true and it is not right, and we can fix it. The opportunity for workers with disabilities act would require government at all levels to allow people to earn more in wages than they lose in clawbacks and taxes.

The bill knocks down the welfare wall and makes work pay, because there is dignity in labour. Ask Walgreens vice-president, Randy Lewis, the father of an autistic son. He hired over 1,000 workers with disabilities at the company's ruthlessly competitive distribution centres. These workers profited the company, and the jobs freed people from poverty. To quote Lewis' book:

Also on the team was Derrill Perry, a forty-nine-year-old-year old man with a developmental disability, who had been employed in a workshop where he was paid less than a dollar an hour.... On the day he earned his first Walgreens paycheck, he handed it to his mother, and she began to cry. He used part of that paycheck to treat his parents to a dinner out—first time to pay the bill at a restaurant.

Lewis met Derrill's parents at the company's open house. He writes:

When I reached out to shake Derrill's dad's hand, he pulled me in for a hug and whispered in my ear, “Thank you. My family is finally safe. Now I can die knowing they'll be all right.”

Within a year, Derrill's father died. Derrill was the sole support for his mother—his salary more than either of his parents had ever earned.

By passing the opportunity for workers with disabilities act, we tell the Derrills, the Clints, the Marks, and the millions of others who work or want to work that we will never count them out again, that they matter, that they have worth, that there is treasure in each and every one of them. While for the longest time we understood that they needed us, we now know that we need them too.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members



Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opportunity for Workers with Disabilities ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, May 29, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 6, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures, as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motion in Group No. 1.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:30 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, as I was saying earlier, the thing that really disappoints me about Bill C-74 is that it leaves out the people from the rural regions, where I am from. In its 2015 election platform, the Liberal government said it wanted to do things differently and that it did not want to use omnibus bills. Bill C-74 is an omnibus bill. The election platform states, “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny”.

Since the Liberal government came to power, it has been promising heaven and earth to Canadians. However, we do not always get heaven and earth. I will explain. Every time the Liberals said that they were transparent, we realized that they were pulling a fast one on us. Without really knowing it, we all became millionaires yesterday with the purchase of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline.

I am very disappointed that, after conducting so many consultations across the country, the Liberals did not listen to ordinary Canadians who live in remote areas. This budget contains nothing for them. It is too bad, because we have to remember that it is people in rural areas who feed our cities, and not the other way around. It is people who live in those small communities who could really use a bit of help.

As for employment insurance, the Liberals invested $10 million to provide training to the unemployed, but only 26 people in my riding were eligible. Furthermore, the training offered is not appropriate for the rural community I represent. What we need in our rural communities is manual labour, like farmers and seasonal workers, in other words, people who have to deal with the EI spring gap. These people need training that reflects their reality, not the reality of a few people who draft legislation and who have never set foot in our ridings.

Every region is different. In my riding alone, we have six different realities. There is an urban reality, a semi-urban reality, a rural reality, agriculture, tourism, and many other different things. This budget, however, does not correspond to the reality of ordinary Canadians. It is more suited to the reality of people who work in an office in the Liberal universe.

In closing, I am very disappointed and I will not be supporting this bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:30 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her excellent speech on the budget and other aspects of the government's fiscal plan. I would like to ask a question about the carbon tax. The government has a position on this, and it differs from ours. It is not unusual in a democracy to have different points of view, but the problem in this case is that the government does not want to provide the information. We have a carbon tax cover-up. The government does not want to disclose the information about the impact on families.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks of that.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:35 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague. I am very pleased that he is shining a spotlight on the Liberal government's lack of transparency. Let us think back to the election platform. I am not the one who originally said that written words are more powerful than spoken words. It is in black and white that the Liberals said they wanted to do things differently and to be transparent. Being transparent when we want to do things differently means opening the books. They state clearly in their election platform. However, every time we receive a file, it is redacted. We cannot get the whole truth.

We learned today that the government redacted or kept secret correspondence concerning all the questions we asked about the Aga Khan's travel. More than 80% of the hundreds of pages of correspondence exchanged by representatives of the Aga Kahn during the three months preceding the meetings between the Prime Minister and the super-rich leader were redacted. That is the case for many files. We highlighted certain files.

They say they want to do things differently, but I would just like to point one thing out. I think they are obsessed with Mr. Harper, which is a compliment to him. Unlike them, however, Mr. Harper said what he was going to do and did what he said he would, even if people did not like it. The Liberals said they would do things differently, but they are actually doing things worse than us. That is a shame, because that is the line they fed people. They told people to vote for them, but now we know it was all a charade.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:35 p.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, during question period today, my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot asked a question about the spring gap. The story she told us was so sad. In the Maritimes, people are going to church to pray for a miracle because they have no more money to feed their families. There is nothing about employment insurance in this budget, nor is there anything about it in Bill C-74.

Does my colleague think that, instead of waiting and cutting taxes for the rich, the federal government should have done something about the employment insurance spring gap?

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:35 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. In the past we were accused of not working for workers. In my riding I recently held a town hall on the spring gap and employment insurance. Indeed, we have hit a wall. It is becoming increasingly urgent to tackle this wall. We have to reform the system or see the situation in a different way. It is not just in New Brunswick that people go through the spring gap or end up going to the churches. It is in small communities like mine that people survive on seasonal employment. We have to look at this closely and work together to find a tangible way to counter the effect of the spring gap. That is extremely important. In my riding alone, there is a suicide prevention centre. The centre is getting a growing number of calls from people who are financially strapped. The employment rate varies from region to region. In the Quebec City region, the unemployment rate is 5%, which is very low, but people there get only 14 weeks of employment insurance. The rest of the time they end up in the spring gap, and that is a problem for many people and families in my riding.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:35 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am happy to speak today to Bill C-74. Once again, as with many speeches I have given in this place, I rise with a bit of a sense of irony.

Budget implementation bills are often complex because they implement the budget and execute measures in a number of areas of law and regulatory action, so they tend to number in the hundreds of pages. My friends in the Liberal Party used to decry the use of omnibus legislation, but here we are with Bill C-74, once again an omnibus bill subject to time allocation. These are “assaults on democracy” in the words of my Liberal friends when they were in opposition, and now they are statecraft for getting things done in the chamber. They are becoming very adept at it, setting records in the use of time allocation per day.

Nonetheless, at this report stage debate I am going to reiterate some of the concerns I have with the budget. They are fundamental economic concerns that all Canadians should share.

I am going to highlight one quote from the Minister of Finance, taken from near the end of his budget speech, which we all listened to here. In many ways it typifies the problems with the Liberal Party and its approach to governing and its reckless abuse of the public purse. Near the end of his speech the finance minister said, “With this budget, we are doubling down on our plan to invest in the middle class and in people working hard to join it.”

Most Canadians, even those who do not follow politics that much, have heard that trope many times, that platitude that “we're here for the middle class and those working hard to join it”. Today in debate the Minister of Environment almost accidentally kept spouting that phrase. It is something rote in their learning.

The Fraser Institute has confirmed that most Canadians have seen less under the Liberal government. They have seen tax increases despite some of the changes made to the child care benefit. If we look at the total tax burden on Canadians, the elimination of tax credits for young people in sports and music, the elimination of the transit tax credit, higher income taxes, changes to the tax treatment of dividends, the carbon tax, EI and payroll taxes, we see that the Liberals have raised taxes dozens of times indirectly or directly. We even joke that they tax our Saturday night, because there is now an automatic tax on wine, spirits, and beer, and they are taxing Uber rides home. The Liberals are running out of things to tax. That is why most Canadians are actually not better off under the Liberals. They are far worse off.

What is troubling about the minister's quote is his use of the word “invest”. That is his euphemism for spending. The word “invest” appeared 456 times in the minister's budget speech and document. Why should that concern Canadians? It should because it means there are 456 areas within the scope of government where the Liberals are increasing spending.

The rate of increased government spending is absolutely reckless, a 20% increase in spending in just over two years, accounting for $58 billion in new money. As the Auditor General has shown through his reports and from reports by Finance Canada, very little of that actually went to infrastructure. Are Canadians 20% better off?

When the government is running huge deficits in the midst of a recession, do we see logic to any of this increased spending? That number does not even reflect this week. This week we bought a pipeline. That is another $4.5 billion.

We are approaching a level where the Liberal government, which is just past half of its mandate, has put a more than 20% increase in spending by the public purse.

In my last speech I turned around the minister's phrase, “We're going to double down on investing.” Double down on spending is what he was saying. I joked about the Liberal double-double. Most Canadians love their double-double, cream and sugar, but the Liberal double-double is doubling the tax burden and doubling deficits.

We remember the Prime Minister assuring Canadians that he was going to run a deficit as prime minister, but never more than $10 billion. It was a Liberal double-double: two years of $20-billion deficits while raising taxes. Therefore, Liberals are bringing in more revenue by taking more from Canadians, small businesses, entrepreneurs, households, and seniors, and yet they are even outstripping what they are bringing in. It is truly astounding.

Now we can factor in their decisions with respect to the resource economy and being forced to buy an asset because they cannot find private sector buyers. Confidence in the Canadian economy and the ability to get projects done here is shrinking, so the government now feels that it should replace the private sector. That has put another $4.5-billion burden on taxpayers.

What was not in the budget, despite all the purported investments—remember I said that he used the term “invest” more than 400 times—was investment, or spending, or provision made for NAFTA or U.S. trade changes. There was zero money allocated for that. Most Canadians, when they look at budgets, forecasting, or spending, have a rainy-day fund in case something goes bad or there is an unexpected problem. The government knew there were risks related to NAFTA, it knew there were risks related to steel and aluminum tariffs, and yet it allocated zero for that risk.

We have already seen the impact of the Prime Minister's inability to get a deal on softwood and the tariffs applied there now. Tonight, in a few hours, we are going to see tariffs applied on steel and aluminum. It does not have to be that way. NAFTA and provision for the NAFTA negotiations were mentioned on a couple of pages in the budget document, but there is no actual plan for a contingency. For a government that spends the money of Canadians so cavalierly, to have allocated zero to risks associated with trade is troubling. We are seeing that play out today.

The Conservatives have tried to work very closely with the government on NAFTA. In 10 months or so, I have asked maybe six or seven questions on the most fundamental economic agreement for Canada. In fact, I have praised the minister, particularly his efforts in January with respect to auto parts, but the Team Canada approach means that the Liberals have to listen to the team that actually negotiated the NAFTA trade agreement and was able to secure deals that respected supply managed farms and small businesses that kept us competitive. The very team that wants to help is being ignored, particularly when it comes to linking trade and security, which both Democrats and Republicans want to do. In this budget, there is zero provided for a response to the tariffs that will be setting in on our steel and aluminum industries. It was terrible that the Prime Minister went to these communities and insinuated that he had dealt with it. He went on a victory tour, and here we are with no deal.

I also raise the fact that Liberals are rushing through this budget implementation bill when the very things they are doing in it are not complete yet. Of course, the bill is full of tax increases, and one of the special ones the Prime Minister is looking at is in part 3 of this bill, the excise tax provisions for cannabis. That really seems to be the only legislative agenda the Liberals want to keep on track: the legalization of marijuana. In this bill, they are already planning the excise tax regime. The only problem is that marijuana is not yet legal. In fact, the Senate has been proposing changes with respect to home-grown cannabis. In this omnibus bill that the Liberals are rushing through with time allocation, there are provisions on other related legislation that has not even passed yet.

Why the rush, particularly when the Senate is dealing with it and we have heard concerns from chiefs of police and pediatricians with the Canadian Medical Association? With the current government, it is a matter of damn the torpedoes: use time allocation and omnibus bills to get it done. The key thing is that when they say they are going to invest, Canadians had better get a hold of their wallets.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:45 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Madam Speaker, the member talked about the spending issue. I recall back in 2008 when spending by the federal government at the time was rising at an exponential rate. Conservatives will use the excuse that they were spending because the recession was settling in, but the spending took place before signs of the recession started settling in.

The member talked about the $4.5 billion for the Trans Mountain pipeline as a government investment in people. A few decades ago, the Government of Canada decided to invest to save the Hibernia project off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. It turns out that it saved the whole project, which has returned dividends since then, as it is now turning a healthy profit. That was done by a Conservative government. I wonder if he thinks that was a bad investment.

Budget Implementation Act, 2018, No. 1Government Orders

6:50 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend is one of my favourite Newfoundland and Labrador MPs. He speaks up for the things he believes in, and I respect that.

He seems to suggest that the recession was a big surprise in 2008-09 as there was a global banking failure and the entire global community was working on a response. The key distinction is when a deficit was run in the midst of the biggest global meltdown since the 1930s, Prime Minister Harper had a plan to get out of deficit. The current Prime Minister is running a deficit that is double what he promised Canadians. Now his own department has said that it will not be balanced by 2019; it will be more like 2030. Therefore, there is no plan.

The difference between the $4.5 billion spent this week to buy a 60-year old pipeline is that the Prime Minister created this issue. I think my friend from Newfoundland will appreciate this joke when I use it. The Prime Minister killed northern gateway arbitrarily, passed laws that killed energy east, and Trans Mountain is on the brink. The Prime Minister is a serial pipeline killer, and someone needs to stop him.

The difference with Hibernia is that there was not a private sector player at the time when there was distress to a large investment that would help a region. They are very different circumstances. The Prime Minister is now spending our money to get out of a problem he created.